Military family proves resilient through 450 days of separation

  • Published
  • By 2nd Lt. Annabel Monroe
  • 341st Missile Wing Public Affairs
The Gaines family will spend for more than 450 days apart separated by six thousand miles, but continue to count their blessings every single day.

Master Sgt. Billy Gaines, 39th Security Forces Squadron member, and wife Desiree, 341st Force Support Squadron work life specialist, started collecting memorable moments for their two children, Tenaya, 12, and Isaiah, 10, each day Billy is gone during a 15-month unaccompanied assignment.

Each memento, whether a blessing, funny story or piece of art, is stored in a box to be shared with Billy upon his return.

"The Airmen and Family Readiness Center came together to host a Crafternoon Tea where we made the boxes together," said Desiree. "We put things like special moments, report cards, artwork and souvenirs from trips in the box as they happen, so that we'll remember the details and be able to share the moments with Billy."

This is the family's fourth extended temporary duty. Billy left for his assignment just before military families received orders to evacuate bases in Turkey as hostilities within the area grew. The decision to move families was made in consultation with the Government of Turkey, the State Department and Secretary of Defense.

"We had heard reporting of the increasing threat surrounding the area and we didn't want to subject Tenaya and Isaiah to any of that," said Billy. "We thought it would be best if I went for 15 months unaccompanied and then hopefully we'd be able to come back to Montana."

Desiree is a member of the AFRC staff which specializes in enhancing readiness by providing worldwide combat support and community services for the 341st Missile Wing.  A large part of her job is to help families cope with the challenges of military life.

"It's so important for other spouses to get connected. I encourage other military families to be aware of their resources, reach out and ask questions," said Desiree. "We have a very knowledgeable Airmen and Family Readiness staff. We offer special events, classes and counselling on life skills, financial readiness and deployment readiness.  It doesn't matter whether the deployment is five days in the missile field or a year in the Middle East."

Though 15 months will be the longest separation the family has faced, they celebrate each milestone through technology and look forward to their time together.

"One of the best things about this current assignment is technology," said Billy. "The fact that through the internet I'm able to call, text or email virtually anytime has made things unbelievably easy."

"The difference between this and our previous deployments is day and night," said Desiree. "Technology allows the kids to have their own one-on-one time and share family moments."

They recently passed the halfway point of this assignment.

"Of course I can't wait to hold my wife," said Billy. "I can't wait to hug my kids. I can't wait to be in my own home, but it's the small things I look forward to."

Driving my own truck and seeing the familiar streets, roads and stores as I pass by going to work. I look forward to hearing dogs barking all the time and sounds of the neighborhood," he continued. "I miss those things, the things you take for granted and you don't realize you miss until they're not around."

The family plans to open the box, count the blessings and share a story night. Among the blessings within the box will be some of those small things, but also bigger milestones. They'll catch up on missed time together.

The Air Force remains committed to Airmen and families. Providing tools and events throughout deployments is just one example of ensuring the comprehensive wellness and resilience of our Airmen and families.

The Gaines family is a great example of that.

For more information on resources offered by the AFRC call 731-4900.